Turkey may close İncirlik, Kürecik bases 'if necessary'
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 15 said that Ankara may close two bases in Turkey where U.S. soldiers are stationed "if necessary".
"If necessary, we will hold discussions with all our delegations, and if necessary, we may close İncirlik [air base in southern Adana province] and Kürecik [radar station in eastern Malatya province]," Erdoğan said in a televised interview.
Main opposition CHP voices support for closing İncirlik, Kürecik air bases
Speaking about a resolution passed in the U.S. Senate on Armenian allegations over the events of 1915, Erdoğan said the bill was "completely political," adding: "It is very important for both sides that the U.S. does not take irreparable steps in our relations."
"We regret that the polarization in U.S. domestic politics has had negative consequences for us and that some groups abuse developments about our country for their own interests in order to weaken [President Donald] Trump," Erdoğan added.
“We are not going to stand empty-handed. Let me say very clearly and openly: Is it possible to speak about America without mentioning Indians? It is a shameful moment in U.S. history. Similar things happened in Africa. Is it possible to put aside the French massacres in Rwanda, Algeria?
“They did slave trade in cells from Senegal to America. What will we do to explain these to the international community? We have documents in our archive. We will reveal that the history of the West is the history of racism and colonialism. While all these massacres and genocides are standing, they cannot say anything to the nation which has a proud history like us,” said Erdoğan.
On Dec. 12, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution recognizing Armenian claims on the events that transpired in 1915.
Turkey's position on the events of 1915 is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as "genocide" but describes the events as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.
Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to examine the issue.
Drilling in Eastern Mediterranean
Stressing that there are significant hydrocarbon reserves beneath the Eastern Mediterranean, Erdoğan said Turkey may work in the region with companies that are "strong in the international community".
Noting that a security and military cooperation deal with Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) would go into effect after its ratification in the Turkish parliament, he underlined that with the deal, both Turkey and Libya's rights would be protected and that Turkey would not allow any unilateral steps to be taken.
"If the Libyan government requests military support, Turkey will make its decision," said Erdoğan, reiterating that Turkey is "ready to provide all kinds of support to Libya."
"We may take the necessary steps within international law," he added.
Erdoğan on Dec. 15 held a meeting with Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
The closed-door meeting between Erdoğan and al-Sarraj took place at the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul.
On Nov. 7, Ankara and the Tripoli-based Libyan government reached two separate memorandums of understanding (MoUs), one on military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The memorandum on maritime boundaries asserted Turkey's rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area. It went into effect on Dec. 8.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Since the spring of this year, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels -- Fatih and most recently Yavuz -- to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the TRNC to the resources of the region.
Turkey’s first seismic vessel, the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa, which was bought from Norway in 2013, has been conducting exploration in the Mediterranean since April 2017.
Athens and Greek Cypriots have opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships’ crews and enlisting European Union leaders to join their criticism.
Turkey’s counter-terrorism operation in northern Syria
Erdoğan said Turkey's goal with its anti-terrorism operation in northern Syria was to maintain peace for Syrians, not to "seize its oil".
"Neither the U.S. nor Russia could eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists there [from northern Syria] as they promised. So we have to do it," he added.
“They are particularly disrespectful to our Kurdish brothers,” said Erdoğan.
“They define the YPG/PKK as Kurdish,” he said, referring to Western countries. “In my opinion, this is disrespect to the Kurds.”
Erdoğan said they camouflage the YPG/PKK under the name SDF.
He stressed that the YPG/PYD is an offshoot of the PKK terrorist organization.
“The ringleader of the YPG/PKK, Ferhat Abdi Sahin, also known as Mazloum Kobani, is the spiritual son of the jailed leader of the PKK terrorist organization [Abdullah Öcalan]. The heads of the U.S. and Russia speak with this man. We can’t get results with this situation. Besides, this man is being sought with a red notice,” said Erdoğan.
“I also said this in the NATO meeting. If we are together in NATO, if we fight against terror together, how can you talk with these ringleaders? Firstly, we have to fix this.”
He stressed that the fight against PKK terrorists should be carried out jointly and as it was against ISIL terrorists.
On Oct. 9, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
The U.S.-backed SDF, a group dominated by the YPG, has been controlling some 28 percent of the Syrian territories, including the most of the 911-kilometer-long Syria-Turkey border.
Turkey deems the YPG the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization also by the United States and the EU.
Fight against FETÖ
During the interview, Erdoğan also said he would speak over the phone on Dec. 16 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about returning FETÖ terrorists.
"We talked about this at the NATO meeting. The main topic in the phone call will be Libya, but we will talk about returning FETÖ members as well," he said.
Erdoğan said the number of FETÖ members is very high especially in the U.S., Germany, France, Belgium and Greece and they are given the opportunity to settle there.
FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.